I realise I’ve been a tad quiet of late – Mum has asked me to tone down any negative perceptions I have of the place, given the religious and political climate here, so I guess I’m going by the theory of if you’ve got nothing nice to say then say nothing. I do however have nice things to say but will keep my more political musings quieter and save them for when we meet and/or the book deal (I jest).
I’ve made a couple of mates who are taking the edge of things – had a fun random night out last night which was well over due. Started at Thai Snack – the restaurant in the massage parlour and a Doha institution. As I’ve started knowing my way around and how to give directions people have said ‘uh! behind Thai Snack – everyone knows where that is!’ Here you do not use street names but ‘landmarks’ – turn at ‘Toys R’Us’ behind Mega Mart, over the road from the Sheraton and all the roundabouts have an English name – ‘TV’ roundabout is near the Al Jazeera News channels, ‘Decoration’, near a huge tacky home and decorating store and ‘Rainbow’ – has a rainbow arch on it (no gay pride here folks).
We were sat outside near the water feature – lovely outside temperature and had delightful girlie chats about being new to Doha – I being the veteran on 10 weeks. The three of us had a thai banquet – dumplings, spring rolls, chicken wings (we passed on the chicken anus’s posted on the menu) and a whole baked fish and half a duck – £13 or AU$20 each.
We had all gone to the beach last weekend. I had scrawled some directions on a piece of paper when I had been chatting to ‘veteran expat’ about beaches accessible by a normal car. It went something like take the North road for 40 mins, turn at ‘x’ resort and the beach is to the right – Bob’s your uncle – he was right! Pristine white sand and clear aquamarine water – temperature was perfect, depth to your arm pits – I was ‘pig in shit’ (apologies for the pork reference).
So after gorging ourselves on amazing food at Thai Snack we jumped in my mates car and headed for the ‘city’ – via my mates amazing apartment in West Bay overlooking the sea – everyone has a pool but me!
We headed to the Sheraton; Doha’s oldest hotel and very cool 70’s – I like it. We thought we may have problems as only one of us had their passport – my passport is with HR at work awaiting my exit visa (see below) and many places won’t let you in without one. So we rock up to the Irish bar and are given the ’are you hotel guests, are you members, do you have a passport’ line by the doorbitch – on not being able to present said passport it was a repeated ‘sorry it’s Qatari law’ – the colour photocopy would not do. He was very stern and serious, repeating the ‘Qatari law’ line. He then threw us – ‘but you could try the Latino bar next door’.
So apparently ‘Qatari law’ doesn’t apply to the cool ambient Latino bar with the live singer, dancing and cheap cocktails – cool! So a round of mojitos, a wiggle to some salsa and the obligatory sleazy Columbian saw a couple of hours of old fashioned good fun. The fun of the evening was really in the hilarity of the circumstances you can find yourself in this town – restaurants in massage parlours, bizarre drinking laws, being able to just park anywhere on the footpath.
We were an eclectic bunch – all of us promo girls and new to Doha. A Nigerian/English, a Singaporean/Malay and an Anglo Australian woman went into a bar…
On the craftyside I now have three solar dyeing bundles heating up on the balcony – tumeric root, eucalyptus and tea and just eucalypt – results in May. I also played with cold dyeing with bougainvillea flowers and got a lovely pink.
I have officially signed up for another six months starting May 1st. Figure I need to find out about a Gulf summer for myself – may rue this call. I am still only a freelancer, so I will become a person with no country of residence as I give up my lovely flat in London (thanks Karen & Rich!) and essentially become a ‘tax exile’. In order to leave Qatar you must have an exit visa signed by your employer – hence I leave in under a week and have no passport.
So, I arrive in London next Thursday to pack up my life, sort out all my paperwork, visit Malta with Joe and Alex and see the Royals wed. I am liking that my last full day in the UK is the day of the Royal Wedding. I want to be in the crowd at the Queen Victoria monument, at the end of The Mall, in front of the palace waving a Union Jack as my farewell to Blighty. She has hosted me well – I’ve had my ups and downs in the UK but London is one damn fine town.